Though the Port Richmond annual Memorial Day parade won’t take place this year, locals are working to make sure veterans are honored in some way.
Sad news has recently gone around Port Richmond: for the first time in what is believed to be 50 years, the annual Memorial Day parade has been canceled, due to rising costs and low donations.
“I’m disappointed,” said Ken Paul, president of Port Richmond on Patrol and Civic (PROPAC). “The cost of the parade increased, and the donations were less.”
After months of fund-raising, PROPAC was only able to raise $2,000 for this year’s parade. The projected costs for the parade were $12,000.
“Even if someone gave me $10,000 right now, it would still be too late. I need to apply to the city permits two months ahead of time,” Paul said.
However, that doesn’t mean that Memorial Day will not be observed.
In response to the parade’s cancellation, the Friends of Campbell Square will be hosting the entire Memorial Day celebration this year.
“The parade usually ends at Campbell Square, but we are amping it up a bit this year because of the lack of parade,” explained Jen Bytof, events coordinator for Friends of Campbell Square. “So many residents were disappointed.”
A flag-raising ceremony will be held at Campbell Square. The Philadelphia Freedom band and the Polish American String Band will both be performing for a half hour. The celebration will begin around 11 a.m. on Monday, May 27.
“We just thought it would be a real waste to not have anything for veterans on Memorial Day,” said John Rajca, a Friends of Campbell Square member and former soldier in the U.S. Army.
Rajca is also reaching out to John J. Plenskofski, a Korean War veteran who was interviewed for a piece in last week’s Star (“A memorial’s missing name,” 5/8/13) about an unused plaque honoring Pfc. Stanley A. Gogoj, a Port Richmond man who was the first soldier from the Philadelphia area to die in Korea. Rajca hopes that the plaque can be placed in Campbell Square as part of the Memorial Day celebration.
“They’re doing the right thing,” Paul said of the new plan by the Friends of Campbell Square. “We’re still doing the thing that is important, which is honoring the veterans.”
Patty-Pat Kozlowski, the former PROPAC president, said fund-raising for the Memorial Day parade is always tough.
“You have a handful of people who donate. You can’t hit your mom-and-pop businesses for everything,” she said. “With $2,000, we wouldn’t even be able to cover our insurance and our permit fees.”
Paul said that the three string bands which usually march and perform in the parade all increased their fees from last year.
Additionally, PROPAC pays for police officers to watch over the parade. They also would have to pay for a $1.5 million insurance plan, in case anyone was hurt during the parade, as PROPAC would technically be liable if any injuries to pedestrians or participants occurred at the parade.
Donations were low for several reasons.
Three local banks, Polonia Bank, Washington Savings Bank, and Port Richmond Savings, have donated about $1,000 each in past years. But this year the three banks donated $250 total, Paul said.
Additionally, state Sen. Larry Farnese (D-1st dist.) secured a $5,000 grant last year for the parade, according to Kozlowski, but that grant is not available every year.
“That was clutch for us,” Kozlowski said.
The community’s reactions have ranged to suggesting going door-to-door to asking SugarHouse Casino, Paul said, neither of which is realistic.
SugarHouse Casino has a community benefits agreement and distributes grants through the Penn Treaty Special Services District, but only applicants within the 19125 ZIP code are eligible.
The Port Richmond Business Association used to handle all the fund-raising for this parade, before PROPAC took it over.
Paul pledged that this experience will make him work all the harder on fund-raising for next year’s parade.
“We’re gonna have one next year,” he said. “The way things work, maybe it’s a good thing we’re not having it.
Maybe people are gonna be more aware, yeah, we do need help, you need to be involved in this. It can’t just be three people, it needs to be an entire group people.”
Reporter Sam Newhouse can be reached at 215-354-3124 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.